Philips: Smart lighting can neutralise the age differences in your office

Age discrimination aside, a typical office might house workers ranging from their twenties through sixties. And while it's no secret that the average set of eyes on a young adult typically functions better than those on an older colleague, office and lighting designers have long ignored the difference.

Enough of that, says Philips, which is calling for 'personalised lighting in your workplace' to assure that employees of all ages work under the correct, individualised lighting conditions that allow them not only to see (what a concept!) but, even better, to produce.

It's part of the Dutch giant's efforts to market its 'Connected Lighting for offices', which it first introduced a year ago and which it has showcased at The Edge, the environmentally heralded Amsterdam offices of consulting firm Deloitte. The system allows workers to use smartphone apps that adjust overhead lights individually. The lights are connected to an ethernet network, with each light having its own internet address. 

'A 45+ worker tends to need almost double the light needed by a 20 year old for everyday tasks,' the Dutch lighting gaint says in a press release. 'The one-light-for-all principle is outdated at a time when we are all living and working longer. Today 30-50 per cent of people in work are over 45 years old...Over the age of 45, people begin to experience a deterioration of their near-sight vision. Research  shows, a 60-year-old person needs between two and five times as much light as a 20-year-old to see the same visual detail, let alone to concentrate.'

The wrong lighting could even undermine health and productivity, Philips says.

'People often call off sick due to headaches and fatigue,' notes Bianca van der Zande, principle scientist at Philips Lighting. 'These symptoms may have many underlying causes but perhaps one of these could be the result of prolonged eye-strain due to poor lighting conditions in their working lives. Inadequate lighting can lead to visual discomfort, neck pain, headaches, fatigue  and perhaps eventually sick leave.'

A 2013 survey by Philips found that 90 per cent of people who could adjust desk lamps for brightness and colour temperature reported 'sharper vision, optimum eye comfort, (and) the ability to see smaller details and improved contrast.' It was a bit of a foregone conclusion, but the idea now is that ethernet-connected, app-controlled overhead lights can deliver the same benefits.

Philips is also calling for government regulations to mandate individualised lighting.

'Regulatory bodies should take these findings into account for the well-being and productivity of today’s workforce,” says van der Zande.

'People spend 80-90 per cent of their time indoors from which around 20 per cent is spent at work so the indoor environment determines to a large extent the comfort and wellbeing of the office employee, influencing their performance. It is important that human-centric lighting becomes a part of the regulatory standards, allowing architects and building designers to advise for the best solutions – not only for offices, but for all building environments.'

At long last, harmony across the generations? That would be a story for the ages.

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Photo is from pcruciatti via Shutterstock

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Lighting for workplaces is ruled by standards, which is actually the EN 12464. There is nothing demanded to create extra light for aged workers despite evidences it would be helpful. In my praxis it is quite often difficult to convince clients to install more light for a Lux-level, which gives some play for maintenance time or flexibility in the position of workplaces. As long as this is not stipulated by laws, there will be hardly a chance for such ambitious engagement. A good argue would be also a calculation about what money can be saved when people have better light (e.e. lower rate of failures). Has this ever been monitored in a company under real conditions?

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